IRFU cancel men’s and women’s All-Ireland Leagues

Decision a big blow for amateur game; touch rugby could be offered as an alternative

The 2021-22 AIL season has been cancelled. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

The 2021-22 AIL season has been cancelled. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The IRFU have cancelled the men’s and women’s All-Ireland League season. The women’s interprovincial series has also been postponed until 2021-22.

There are no available dates for the resumption of matches with the IRFU intent on seeking “alternative forms of rugby, such as tag, which may provide players with much sought after rugby later in the year.”

This is an enormous blow for the amateur game, particularly the entire women’s schedule, which is officially on hold across the entire island, with the hope of reviving their 2021 Six Nations campaign in April or May.

“As Covid-19 continues to impact our lives we had to make the difficult decision to cancel the 2020/21 All Ireland Leagues and the women’s interprovincial championship,” said Greg Barrett, Chair of the IRFU Rugby Committee in a statement. “A huge amount of work is ongoing, and we continue to look at avenue that may provide players and clubs with the rugby that they love.

“In the meantime, we will continue to innovate and develop education opportunities that can help players developing skills beyond the traditional forms of training for the game. With over 10,000 players signed up to our ‘Level Up’ workshops, we are helping players develop understanding and skills that will stand to them for many seasons to come.”

The schools game, which supplies the majority of professional players for provincial squads, is also on hold until April or May, at best.

The bad news coincides with New Zealand planning to break attendance records at the women’s world cup that runs between Auckland and Whangarei from September 18th to October 16th. The hope is to sell out the 44,000 capacity Eden Park for the Black Ferns first game against Australia.  

“We are so proud in New Zealand to be hosting the biggest women’s sporting event in the world this year,” said Michelle Hooper, the tournament director. “Our team is developing a robust platform on which to deliver an incredible tournament that will draw greater attention to women’s rugby than ever before.  

“For the fans here in New Zealand and the global audience tuning in to watch via the international broadcast, we are excited to have such a compelling and exhilarating mix of match contestants in the opening weekend.” 

If Ireland manages to qualify as ‘Europe 1’ they will face the USA in the World Cup opener, an 11.45am kick-off at Northlands Events Centre.  

Player welfare will come under scrutiny as the tournament continues with only four rest days between all three Pool matches and the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile Connacht have extended the contract of head coach Andy Friend until the end of the 2022/23 season.

“Ever since my wife and I moved to the West of Ireland I have been blown away by both the welcome we have received from the people here, as well as the pride they have for their province and for Connacht Rugby,” said Friend. “It has been a really enjoyable time for both of us and it was an easy decision to commit to a further two years.

“There’s a hugely exciting few years ahead for Connacht, both on the field with the squad we have and off the field with the redevelopment of The Sportsground. I want to play my part in the next stage of this journey and I will do all I can to build on the progress we have made to date and ensure we deliver on the real potential that exists within this group.”

Munster lock Jean Kleyn has been suspended for two weeks following an act of foul play involving Scott Fardy during defeat to Leinster last week at Thomond Park. Kleyn will be unavailable until Monday, February 15th. That means the South African will only miss one match this Saturday away to Treviso.

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